Oh how I love the name of this children’s museum: The Children’s Museum of the Low Country. Maybe I have a bit of an obsession with the Low Country: the vinegary tang of pork BBQ, the swaying ghosts of spanish moss, the golden gush of sunlight splattered across marsh grasses. But seriously, what a great name for a Children’s Museum. While on vacation at Edisto Island this April, my husband and I drove an hour north to Charleston, SC to visit this melodically named museum with our sixteen-month-old daughter, Isabelle. As first time visitors, we were the recipients of a gracious southern-drawl welcome and free admission for Isabelle. After following a nondescript brick walkway along a warehouse-like building, stepping in the front door to the Children’s Museum is a welcome shock. The ceiling is littered with fluttering signs calling out upcoming museum events, a full coat of armor stands guard at the entrance of a castle, and a sailboat sinks under the weight of dozens of books. Drinking in the multi-colored sights, you next notice the cacophony of kids: thudding footsteps, cackling laughs, delighted shrieks. The atmosphere of this museum immediately invites full-body participation. I wanted to race my daughter to see the exhibits first. I’d like to think this impulse shows a shedding of years on my part rather than a latent immaturity.
Forcibly pulling my clawing daughter away from the sailboat and books display, we wandered into a room aptly described as the Ball Room. The concept is simple. Throw a couple of buckets of golf balls in a room and add a few race tracks of PVC piping bent at promising angles. Mix in some kids under the age of 12 and see what happens. On the toddler end of things my daughter, well, toddled around trying to work out the mechanics of holding three balls in two hands. The red-shirted second-grade girl bearing a name tag that read Chantelle buzzed about replenishing Isabelle’s golf ball supply. Two grandparents climbed the eight-foot-tall giant steps with their grandson to release balls down the simulated roller coaster track. In the two hours we spent in the museum, the Ball Room warranted numerous visits.
The museum opens into a series of other rooms that contain a multi-course water table, a pirate ship complete with rocking floor in the cockpit, a grocery store filled with items that beg you to disregard the sign advising”only 6 items at a time”, and a toddler room with varied equipment that makes a trip to a Gymboree Play Gym seem like old news. We enjoyed the 70-degree sunshine by eating our picnic lunch outside in the kid’s garden, which does indeed boast a series of vegetable and flower beds placed at kid’s height and watered liberally by little hands holding plastic watering buckets. My daughter spent some time watering the plastic frog lawn ornament next to a thirsty-looking blueberry bush.
Our visit was so enjoyable that I couldn’t resist sliding out my iPhone to check on membership prices in comparison to our Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. The result? Frankly, the Children’s Museum of the Low Country is a slightly better deal. And I have to bemoan the fact that once a week they offer Petit Francais Toddler French classes. I can’t drive 13 1/2 hours each week to expose Isabelle to French (though the thought is tempting), so Pittsburgh, please, step up and give me a break! However, both my local Pittsburgh Children’s Museum and the Low Country Children’s Museum belong to the Association of Children’s Museums Reciprocal Network, which means you can join one museum and while traveling still have access to over 150 other children’s museums around the country. As soon as I get home from vacation, I’m signing up.
Children’s Museum of the Low Country offers basic family memberships for $75 per year. The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh basic family membership runs $99 per year. More information about the reciprocal memberships can be found at http://www.childrensmuseums.org/visit/reciprocal.htm